Does a Bishop need to be Enthroned? Spiritualities and Temporalities

by Philip Jones

‘As there are 4 things required to complete a parson, presentation, admission, institution and induction: so there are 4 things analogically requisite in a making of a bishop: election … confirmation … consecration … and installation or [enthronement]’ (Bishop of St. David’s case (1699) 91 English Reports 126, p.128).

The author of this blog has long been attracted by the neatness and symmetry of this dictum.  However, when writing the preceding blogpost (‘An Apostolic Succession’), a doubt formed.  Is the dictum correct?  Consecration is certainly requisite for a bishop, as are election and confirmation, unless the bishop is appointed by royal letters patent.  But what is the purpose of installation / enthronement?

(The older ecclesiastical law held that only an Archbishop is enthroned.  Inferior bishops are merely installed.  However, the canons of the Church of England now apply the word ‘enthronement’ to the installation of a bishop as well as an Archbishop, cf. canon C15.2.)

There is an obvious analogy between the offices of benefice incumbent and diocesan bishop.  The incumbent has the cure of souls of the parish, the bishop of the entire diocese.  The bishop is in effect the incumbent of the diocese.  The cathedral is the parish church of the diocese.  However, the bishop does not have the freehold of the cathedral, as the incumbent has of the parish church.

As well as incumbent and bishop, the dictum implies an analogy between the benefice patron, who presents the incumbent, and the Monarch, who nominates the bishop.

However, there is 1 important difference between the benefice patron and the Monarch.  The patron has no title to, or control of, the proprietary rights of the benefice, the ‘temporalities’ as they are called.

Both appointment processes, for incumbents and bishops, make a distinction between

(1) the spiritual functions or ‘spiritualities’ of the office and

(2) the temporalities.

The confirmation of a new bishop’s election ‘commits to the bishop elected the care, government and administration of the spiritualities’ (Phillimore Ecclesiastical Law, 2nd ed 1895, p.40).  Likewise, ‘the clerk [i.e the new incumbent] by institution … has the cure of souls committed to him’ (p.357). Thus there is a close analogy between confirmation and institution. They have the same effect, i.e conferring the spiritual function of the office.

Temporalities are a very different matter. An incumbent is a corporation sole at common law, and is also the freeholder of the benefice property. This means that benefice property has no legal owner during a vacancy, because there can be no corporation if there is no incumbent.

However, benefice property remains in the possession and control of the Church during a vacancy. The bishop appoints sequestrators to manage the property. The sequestrators are the bishop’s officers. The benefice patron has no involvement with the sequestration.

Thus institution confers title ad officium on the new incumbent, induction ad beneficium (cf Phillimore p.354). Induction ‘vest[s] the incumbent with full possession of all the profits belonging to the Church’ (p.359) … it instates the incumbent in full possession of the temporalities, as these are opposed to [i.e different from] the spiritual office or function [which is conferred by institution]’ (p.361).

The bishop, like the incumbent, is a corporation sole. However, unlike benefice property, the temporalities of a bishopric are not owner-less during a vacancy. Nor are they in the possession and control of the Church. On the contrary, they revert to the Crown.

At common law, all bishoprics, including all proprietary rights attached to them, are donative of the Crown, i.e held of the Crown. This means that a new bishop receives his temporalities from the Crown, not the Church.

Thus the installation / enthronement of a bishop is not analogous to the induction of an incumbent. If the bishop-elect receives his spiritualities at the confirmation of his election, and his temporalities from the Crown, it is hard to see how enthronement adds anything to his title or possession of office. (As mentioned earlier, he has no property in the cathedral, where the enthronement takes place.) Enthronement may assert or demonstrate the new bishop’s title and possession, but it does not confer this. Therefore, contrary to the dictum in the St. David’s case, enthronement is not ‘requisite in a making of a bishop’.

S.5 of the Appointment of Bishops Act 1533 provides that

‘persons being hereafter chosen elected nomynate presented invested and consecrate to the dignitie or office of any Archebishop or Byshope … and suing theire temporalties out of the Kynges handes … and makyng a corporall othe [oath] to the Kynges Hyghnes … shall and may from hensforth be trononysed [enthroned] or installed as the case shall require, and shall have and take their only restitucion out of the Kynges handes of all the possessions and profetts … belongyng to the seid Archebishoperiche or Bishoppriche …’.

Halsbury’s Laws (5th edition, 2011) paraphrases s.5 thus

On installation [enthronement] the bishop is entitled to restitution out of the Queen’s hands of all the possessions and profits … belonging to the bishopric …’ (vol 34).

This paraphrase may suggest that enthronement is a precondition of the temporalities, because in s.5 enthronement is mentioned before restitution of the temporalities. It is argued that this is a mistaken reading of s.5. The only precondition of receiving the temporalities is the oath to the Monarch. Once the oath has been taken, the bishop is entitled both to enthronement and temporalities. Even if, in practice, enthronement occurs before temporalities are reinstated, enthronement is still not a legal precondition of temporalities.

Phillimore explains that ‘When a new bishop is made, he may not de jure before his consecration claim the temporalities of his bishopric, although ex gratia the King by his letters patent may grant them unto him after his confirmation, and before his consecration …’ (p.65). This indicates that the bishop’s claim to the temporalities is founded on his confirmation and consecration, not on his enthronement.

The dictum in the St. David’s case may be an accurate statement of the mediaeval canon law. Canon law is unlikely to have recognised the Crown’s title to episcopal temporalities. So perhaps enthronement was indeed necessary to complete a mediaeval bishop’s title. But, as we have pointed out before, the Church of England is governed by English law, not by canon law.